How to set up a Chromebook for a senior

  • Chromebooks are a great low cost option for seniors wanting to get online
  • If set up correctly, they can be much less complicated than a traditional laptop
  • They’re available for well under $300 – see our best Chromebooks for seniors guide
Get a Google account
Log in
Choose your apps
Tweak the text size

Setting up a Chromebook for a senior properly can make what’s already an easy to use device even simpler.

If you haven’t bought one yet, we’ve got a guide to the best Chromebook for seniors here.

If you’re not sure what a Chromebook is, read our explanation here.

Get a Google account

A Chromebook doesn’t run traditional software like Windows. Instead, it uses Google Chrome browser. To set up your Chromebook, the first thing you’ll need is a Google account. You can set one up easily here.

It is possible to use a Chromebook without a Google account, and to do this you can select Browse as Guest on the login menu of the laptop. However, to get the best out of a Chromebook we’d recommend setting up a Google account – and don’t panic, you can limit the amount of information Google has about you.

Log in to your Chromebook

When you first switch on your Chromebook, you’ll be asked to choose a language, then connect to a WiFi network. Your WiFi password is usually printed on a label on your router (read our what is a router piece if you aren’t sure what or where it is).

Once you’re connected, you’ll get a bunch of terms and conditions, then a list of service the Chromebook will sync. These allow you to keep a copy of your settings on Google’s server, so that if you log in on another Chromebook, or even on a Chrome browser on another computer, phone or tablet, you’ll always have the same settings. You’ll also be shown options to let Google track your location. It’s simple to uncheck Use location if you want to prevent apps and services from using your device’s location. You can always change this option later, there are instructions to do that here.

If your password or account isn’t being accepted, Google has some troubleshooting tips here.

Choose your apps

A Chromebook doesn’t use traditional software like a Microsoft or Apple computer, buy instead apps – just like your phone. In fact, if you have an Android phone, it will often be exactly the same app. If you do, then once you log in the aps from your phone should download, install and set up automatically.

The most common apps are Gmail, which is Google’s email service, and Google Docs, the word processor and spreadsheet (and a few others). These are free, and you should see an option to set them up.

Elsewhere, Google’s Play Store is where you download new apps – you can browse and select the ones you want.

Set your Chromebook up for offline use

One useful feature you’ll want to set up immediately is the ability to use your Chromebook offline, without an internet connection. This means you’ll be able to access and work on documents, emails, and a few other apps even when your WiFi connection is out of range (or broken).

To do this you’ll need to be connected to the internet.

First, we’ll set up Gmail, the email app on your Chromebook.

Set up Gmail for offline use

  1. Open the Gmail app

    Open Gmail (either on Chrome or the Chromebook app) and then click on the cog in the upper right corner.

  2. Enter settings

    Choose Settings from the drop-down menu, then select Offline from the row of tabs that appear under the Settings heading.

  3. Check the offline box

    You’ll see the option to Enable offline mail. Make sure the tickbox is filled in, choose the options that best suit your situation, then select Save Changes.

Next, we’ll do the same for Google docs, so you can work on your documents offline. It’s actually the same process, so follow the steps above

Tweak the text size

If you find that everything on screen is just too small, you can increase the text size.

First, click on the system tray in the bottom right corner—there is where the clock, Wi-Fi, battery, and user icons are shown.

From there, click the Settings icon (the cog) and scroll all the way to the bottom, where you’ll see the “Show advanced settings” button. Click on this, then scroll until you see the “Web content” section.

There are two settings you can use: Font Size and Page Zoom

  • Font Size: If you’re just looking to increase the fonts across the system and leave everything else alone, use the font size and choose from the options ranging from Very Small to Very Large.
  • Page Zoom: This will allow you to zoom in on web pages, making everything (not just text size) bigger. Use the drop-down menu to set your preference.

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